The House of Representatives Committee on Constitutional Review headed by Deputy Speaker Emeka Ihedioha has since finalised work on the reports of lawmakers from the public sessions held across the country. Dubbed People’s Public Sessions, it was a novel arrangement in the constitution amendment process, which won admiration from home and abroad. The Ihedioha committee had collated the report and this report was due for presentation last week Thursday in Abuja when Speaker Aminu Waziri Tambuwal pulled the plug on the event. He said there were “hitches here and there” and there was need for more consultation on the matter.
To be fair, some stakeholders in the project said the Ihedioha committee did not carry them along in putting together the final report. Some members of the panel also claimed they were not allowed access to the final report. But the truth of the matter is the entire report had been a subject of intrigue and politics. Some issues that came up in the public sessions and in the collated report like creation of additional states and autonomy for local councils had become contentious. Some House members particularly those from the North felt the panel had approved the creation of new states particularly an additional state in the South-east to make for regional balance. There are suggestions that the collated report had been ready on Thursday, January 31. The draft copy of the report this writer glimpsed at the weekend, however, did not contain any such recommendation apparently used to blackmail the House leadership to postpone the report presentation.
According to the collated report, on the issue of state creation, two critical questions listed on the template are as follows: (1) Should Section 8 of the constitution be amended or not to remove the ambiguities in the process for the creation of more states? (2) Should a state/states be created in order to bring to parity the number of states among the geo-political zones?
On the first question, it emerged that a majority of the lawmakers’ constituents voted in favour while on the second question, a majority voted “No”. It is the first question with a majority “Yes” vote that was ignorantly misinterpreted by the dissenting members (predominantly from the North) to mean creation of state has been approved by the report, whereas it was roundly defeated via a majority “No” response to the second question. On this particular item, therefore, it seems mischievous for the dissenting members to have alleged that the report was “doctored” in favour of state creation. Some committee members failed to read the report and instead jumped to conclusion. This is precisely why members of parliament need to be very thorough and painstakingly go through a report as crucial as the one on the constitution amendment process.